Home Healthcare Industry Needs Plan to Solve Workforce Shortages
Home healthcare providers may find themselves in a difficult position as they ramp up to meet growing demand for their services. While home healthcare is the fastest growing industry in the country, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, ongoing national shortages of nurses, physicians, advanced practitioners, and therapists may reduce companies’ ability to hire the people they need to meet patient demand.
An industry wide strategy has not emerged to meet the challenges of workforce shortages in home healthcare.
This could be a particular problem considering that home healthcare companies will be competing for healthcare practitioners with long-established hospitals and health systems. As relatively young companies, home healthcare providers may not have the experienced human resources and talent acquisition departments needed for nationwide recruitment initiatives.
A 2016 Texas survey of home health and hospice agencies showed a 17% vacancy rate for registered nurses and a 20% vacancy rate for nurse practitioners. The same survey showed most agencies reporting that they would need more registered nurses with some home health and hospice experience over the next two years.
The survey recommended flexible staffing models to accommodate the changing patient load in home healthcare.
Flexible staffing can include temporary staff contracts designed so that when patient demand grows, the home healthcare company can meet its needs to handle the increased patient volume. In addition, Managing multiple workforce vendors and agencies can be quite time consuming, and inefficient from a cost and operational perspective. A Managed Services Program (MSP) can create a single point of contact solution for the management of vendors, agencies, contracts, candidate selection and interviews, timekeeping, billing, and other related workforce processes.
Strategic workforce planning, rather than simply filling vacancies, is recommended – for home healthcare and all other patient care organizations. This can consist of demand forecasting, business intelligence, predictive modeling, standardized best practices, automated scheduling, and other advanced management practices. However, such practices are not evident in the home healthcare industry.
Workforce planning is very important in a rapidly growing, increasingly challenging industry like home healthcare. If home healthcare companies find themselves with difficulty in filling shift schedules or staff members are showing signs of fatigue, they may be witnessing the early signs of trouble from fast growth without strategic workforce planning.
In home healthcare, workforce planning should include flexibility to fill gaps, such as the time it takes to recruit and onboard permanent hires. That will require a mix of permanent and temporary clinicians, including travel nurses and allied professionals. In addition, candidates should either have experience in home healthcare or receive training so they can be immediately productive. Recruitment of large numbers of permanent staff and managing temporary staff are other factors that should be included in staff planning.
Accomplishing such complex staff planning in an increasingly competitive marketplace can be difficult, particularly for an industry in a heated growth cycle that does not have a robust human resources and talent acquisition infrastructure. Partnering with healthcare workforce experts with the largest nationwide database of quality practitioners, skills in innovative recruitment and management techniques, and capacity for clinical education and training could be vital to the success of growing home healthcare agencies.